How many of you have kids whose faces are buried in their phones, computers and iPads? Now, the next question is, how many of you know what your kids are doing with their faces buried in those phones, computers and iPads? Do you know which Apps your kids are using for chatting, texting, sending and viewing videos, social media and sharing and displaying their lives for friends and strangers? Do you check your kids phones? How much privacy should we give our children when it comes to what they are doing online and how do we, as parents and caregivers, navigate the digital age that we ourselves didn’t grow up with?
Dr. Lynn Shofield Clark
Dr. Clark was driving one day from work and was running late to pick her son up and realized how much easier it would be if she could call him on a cell phone to let him know. He was 9 at the time. She started to think about whether or not he was ready for that and whether she, as a parent, was ready for that. She then knew that if she had those questions and concerns, others did too and she began to research to find the answers.
Dr. Lynn Shofield Clark has a PhD in Sociology and a background in Journalism. She has always volunteered with young people at junvenile detention centers, churches and temples and likes to mentor and encourage her college students to mentor as well. She feels it is important to gain experience from those that are different from you, and a good portion of her work is based on how does privilege and technology play a role in economic differences within society today. She is energetic, passionate and talks with great enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject of parenting in the digital age.
As an Associate Professor and Director of the Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media at the University of Denver, Dr. Clark has written several books, including, The Parent App: Understanding Families in a Digital Age (Oxford University Press, paperback 2014). Dr. Clark will be giving a lecture on how to help parents navigate the digital age on August 15, 2015 at 7 pm at Rice Media Center that is hosted by SWAMP, and if you have a kid with technology, we suggest you go.
Navigating the Digital Age
Although it might seem overwhelming to navigate the digital age, Dr. Clark spoke to us and gave us some pointers.
- It is really important to have conversations with your kids and let them know you are on their side. When you are talking to your kids, instead of focusing on the technology, focus on the relationship you have with them to make your point.
- Make sure your kids understand the consequences of bad online decisions and that they understand the digital trail, such as posting images that are not appropriate, and what makes these decisions life affecting.
- Remember that just because your child has a phone, doesn’t mean that it will solve all problems. For instance, you might be able to reach your child, but that doesn’t mean they are where they are supposed to be!
- When it comes to ‘stranger danger’ online or online predators, most children who end up in trouble were looking for trouble or have been in trouble. The elderly are victimized far more than young people.
- It is up to you, as a parent, to help your children distinguish the positive and negative use of technology.
- Technology is less transparent than we think with new apps coming out all the time that have disappearing texts and messaging.
- When it comes to the digital age and your kids they should have no privacy. Keep all technology use in a public space, even if the kids don’t like it. Keep their phones at night and keep the computers in a space in the house where you can see what they are doing online.
- With the digital age today there is no ‘safe place’ anymore. Kids can be bullied at school AND online at home.
- There is no RIGHT age for a child to have a cell phone. It depends on your needs, your circumstances and your child. You have to decide what’s best for you and your family.
It’s not all negative and scary and there are some positive things about the digital age that parents need to understand as well.
- A cell phone can give a child more independence, especially when you are a single parent or both parents are working.
- The digital age has opened up a forum for kids to resolve conflict in a very different way!
- The digital age has encouraged children to open up dialogues about more things and become more vocal in a meaningful way and learn how to express themselves.
- When cyber-bullying happens, often kids will advocate for each other, which doesn’t always happen in real life.
- Kids are learning how to stand up to bad behavior and be more resilient and have character.
Advice for Teens and Kids from Dr. Clark
If you want other people to respoect you online or offline then treat other people with respect.
Advice for Parents from Dr. Clark
It’s really important to put yourself in your kid’s place and try to understand what they are doing and feeling. We might not know the answers, but we always have our kid’s backs.